Generating power from car exhausts isn't just a bunch of hot air

Car engines aren't exactly the most efficient mechanical systems, and a lot of the wasted energy gets turned into heat that goes down the exhaust pipe. A group of researchers at Purdue University want to harness that heat, by turning it into electricity.

Cars use electricity to run everything from the lights and audio system, to the ignition that fires the spark plugs. By converting exhaust heat into the car's source of electric power, the engine driven alternator can be eliminated, reducing the load on the engine. It might even be possible to replace engine driven accessories like the power steering pump, water pump, and air conditioner compressor with electric versions, and that would make the car significantly more efficient.

The process involves special metal plates, that are attached to areas like the car's catalytic converter, where the heat gets really high. Professor Xianfan Xu explains that there needs to be a big temperature differential between the front and the back of the plate, so it works best in areas where there's plenty of airflow to keep the back of the plate cool.

This is one of those head-slapping ideas that sounds so obvious, that you wonder why it wasn't tackled earlier. Now, how about taking this thinking a step further, and harvesting some of the heat that gets slung out by the car's radiator?

Oh, and where do I get a pair of those ultra hip goggles?

Via Pop Sci

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